NEW YORK, Sept. 21, 2022 — On Wednesday, a court in Kyrgyzstan convicted Next TV director Taalaibek Duishenbiev of inciting interracial hatred over posts on the channel’s social media accounts that covered Russia’s war in Ukraine, according to news reports .
Duishenbiev, who was in custody for seven months, was originally sentenced to five years in prison, his lawyer Nurbek Sydykov told CPJ in a phone call. However, a judge allowed him to leave custody and commuted his sentence to a three-year probationary period, during which the journalist must report to authorities twice a month and not leave the capital, Bishkek, Sydykov said.
“We strongly condemn this unfair judgment against Next TV director Taalaibek Duishenbiev. Republishing newsworthy statements by well-known public figures is part of a news agency’s job, and the absurdity of charging Duishenbiev with instigating it makes it clear that the authorities aim to disrupt the channel’s coverage,” said CPJ program director Carlos Martínez de la Serna. “The Kyrgyz authorities should immediately quash Duishenbiev’s conviction, withdraw the incriminating probation requirements imposed on him and stop prosecuting journalists for fabricated allegations.”
On March 3, 2022, officers from the State Committee for National Security of Kyrgyzstan raided the offices of Next TV and arrested Duishenbiev, who was later charged by a court with inciting inter-ethnic hatred. The charges stemmed from the outlet’s social media posts, which addressed claims by a former head of Kazakhstan’s intelligence agency that Kyrgyzstan had secretly agreed to provide military support to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
In June, prosecutors added another charge of inciting inter-ethnic hatred against Duishenbiev over another Next TV social media post, citing claims made by Uzbek human rights activist Valentina Chupik to Kyrgyz broadcaster Aprel that Russian authorities were pressuring former Kyrgyz citizens sat down to report to the Russian military about reports and Ravshan Jeyenbekov, the opposition politician who owns Next TV, who spoke to CPJ in a telephone interview.
The court convicted Duishenbiev of incitement “by a group of individuals,” but prosecutors only charged Duishenbiev with the post while they continued a separate investigation into “unidentified individuals,” Sydykov told CPJ. Jeyenbekov called the ambiguity in the investigation and the conviction an attempt to keep Next TV “on a short leash.”
Sydykov said the journalist has not yet decided whether to appeal the court’s decision.
CPJ emailed the Office of the Attorney General of Kyrgyzstan for comment, but did not immediately receive a response.